31 March 2008

When two threads meet

It is not all that often that my reading in paper meets up with an interesting idea on the net and the two actually have a direct crossing point.  The posting was a link by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit to a look at SF movies by our friend and taser volunteer at Popular Mechanics, Eric Sofge, to see about the prophetic forecasts of SF.  This is a pretty much perennial late-night topic at SF conventions when there is nothing better to talk about, although most of that usually looks at the literary form, not the cinematic form.  Still, anyone who has been in a few of those knows the basic ground rules:  which film best depicts realistic science and science based extrapolation that could or has been done since its showing up?

Like all good sessions this one has a different form, however, as SF also looks at humanity, society and government, and how they respond to the changes in science.  Here the criticism of the 'utopian' form is a high art, and each casts their eyes to things like Orwell's 1984 (available at The Complete Works of George Orwell site) or Huxley's Brave New World (available at Huxley.net), and similar views on works that do not concentrate specifically on the outcomes of government and society, but use them as the gestalt of presentation, like Frank Herbert's DUNE or Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series.  From great works to lesser ones (like William F. Nolan's Logan's Run) the ability of film to capture these views has been difficult.

Where this intersects with my current reading is the book by Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism.  The review of western and US history, in particular, is deeply disturbing as it shows that the 'memory hole' of 1984 is being married up with the 'do it for your own good' view of Brave New World, to give us something far worse than either:  a technocratically led society where the elite get to decide for the masses what is good for the masses and the State.  This set of views is the Americanized form of Fascism, and the details of the much over-glorified 'progressives' and current crop of 'Third Way' politicians (stretching the bipartisan envelope to include Bill Clinton, George W. Bush to the current nominal selectees of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain) each pressing for technocratic 'experts' and 'government control' over aspects of life in the US that would be chilling to anyone told of such in the 19th century.  The lauding of the 'good' of technology would then be criticized at separating out control of it from society and given to that institution least suited to controlling it: government.

This anti-individual form of 'progressive' views, where the State controlled by 'experts' wipes away the 'primitive common man' was actually presented before 1984 or Brave New World, in cinema.  That work was by the same man that coined the term 'Liberal Fascism' to describe the route that progressives during the 1930's  should take to head towards the future:  H. G. Wells.  The work that would embody this is The Shape of Things to Come (available as etext at Adelaide University) which Wells, himself, turned into the screenplay for the movie Things to Come.  The film version in particular, is highly prophetic, but the book version, also, has its shares of prophecy, including a Polish Corridor struggle leading to a World War. 

Concentrating on the film version, the next World War, like the first, would not end quickly and would be global in fighting and outcome: technology would allow for it to spread to all corners of the earth and then drag on for decades.  As the war continues the civilization would falter and then decline as natural resources and the productive capacity were either ravaged by war or lacking fuel.  The warm and friendly Everytown at the beginning of the film in the mid-1930's has turned into a rubble strewn husk of a town ruled by a local warlord.  In from the air would arrive a well dressed, sophisticated man in uniform who would be announcing that a new order was arriving from those who knew better on how to control technology and, thus, society.  This airman represented the very lofty group 'Wings Over The World' which would then drop non-lethal 'Gas of Peace' bombs to knock everyone out and allow a benign take-over of society.  After that, 'civilization' run by the technocrats would have returned, glorious new cities arise and a large broadcast system so that everyone could hear and see the State announcements invented to keep folks informed of the latest techno-marvel.

As prophetic SF it is one of the most chilling views of the future, the nature of Fascism and the concept of a 'good State' controlling everything and removing the 'unhealthy' views of 'primitive' man.  Things to Come is one of the clearest, most forceful of the Anglo views of Fascism of the mid-1930's and the greatest pronouncement of the 'good' that will come to mankind when the State is in control of everything.  It is also one of the smoothest bits of support for technocratic dictatorship ever produced outside of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy or Stalin's USSR (which has a long and storied legacy of same dating back into the 1920's with The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks, being a prime first example of the genre in the non-prophetic, propagandistic method).  The technology, itself, during the beginning and middle portions of the film are all well known, and it adheres to the SF view of 'invent as little as possible and then show how it changes society and culture'.  The war of tanks, aircraft, nerve gas, and then disease warfare gets out of hand and things collapse with the original war becoming a series of local survival conflicts as the basis for industrial society are lost.  Indeed, this would be one of the first 'post-apocalypse' films and The Road Warrior would fit right in to this view of the world.

While metal monocoque aircraft were not unknown during the filming of Things to Come, in 1935-36, the film sticks to the known 'fabric falcons' of biplanes for viewer familiarity.  Thus when 'Wings Over The World' delivers its benign bombs from huge mono-wing, metal skinned aircraft, they have a dramatic and cinematic flavor when compared to the older wood and fabric aircraft that mankind has been stuck with.  The aircraft used looks very much like a post-WWII heavy bomber, like the B-36, thus making it a harbinger of what technological change could look like.  Delivery of of various forms of 'knock-out' gas have been used to varying degrees of success, but conceptually remains a distinct possibility as a 'non-lethal agent' if destructive side-effects can be avoided which has been troubling to date as dosage cannot be precisely administered.

Hands down, for predicting technology, Things to Come tops just about everything else on the list because it did invent sparingly and along basically known lines of science.  The large generators and such are extrapolated from then known designs, and are more or less infeasible due to sizing constraints.  Likewise the super video system (and this hearkens over to Blade Runner) is outside the envelope of now current technology, but not beyond thin-film display technology now starting to come into the marketplace.  And in a greatly amusing twist for the modern viewer, the basing of 'Wings Over The World' is out of Basra.  Iraq. 

And set on eliminating all other Nation States to subsume humanity under one, single State.

Perhaps Saddam watched the movie?

It is in the societal realm that Things to Come is less than prophetic and trying to be visionary, but grasping propaganda, instead.  The film's view, from Wells, is one that sees man 'liberated' from his base needs and ending with this line to re-inforce *why* a global state is such a good idea:

"...if Man is merely an Animal then he must fight for every scrap of happiness he can, but if he is something more, then he must strive for more — the Universe or nothing - which shall it be?"

That is the harsh and diametric view that is the point of Fascism:  the way to the glorious State to rule everyone and everything, or nothing.  It is also a very Christian view of the divinity of man, and if we could just set ourselves free from base desires we could have the universe and eternal happiness right here on Earth.  And what better instrument to *supply* that eternal happiness than the State, and what better State to do that than the one that benignly eradicates all other States that do not fit with this pre-conception of man?

When I hear those saying that the UN is a 'first try' at a global state and that it is 'inevitable', please do watch Things to Come.  The implication of a global state is that we cannot come to agreement amongst ourselves and are foredoomed to self-annihilation without it.  And if we put the 'experts' in control of everything and homogenize humanity and get rid of different cultures to form a common one, then all will be sweetness and light with the State telling us what is good and bad for us as individuals.  And if 'multiculturalism' is pressed into service to 'raise all cultures to equality' then those that harbor concepts that murder of women for any acts of marital transgression are EQUAL to those where a court would step in to administer fair and even justice without regard to sex, race or ethnicity.  That, too, homogenizes culture and removes differences especially when done from the top-downwards as stoning from religious views becomes exactly as equal and uplifting as due process in a court of law for equal justice.  Discrimination becomes injustice, and allowing injustice to murder and not recriminate it become justice. 

If the idea of a technocratic elite led by 'the best principles' going in to bomb primitives and then removing 'unwanted views' is anathema to you, then why is it perfectly acceptable to press 'unwanted views' upon everyone else and claim that all these views are equal?  That *is* the 'Wings Over The World' view, save that they have decided one way and you another, but the concept being pressed is exactly the same: a given political view needs to be impressed upon everyone to eliminate all differences to get a homogenous humanity to control.

That *is* Fascism: State control over society from cradle to grave.  No exceptions allowed or permitted.

In the genre of resistance to Fascism and State control, SF does have some pretty dark novels like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (which, ironically, had been deeply censored since its first printing and was only restored for its 50th Anniversary) and many films have given us those views from the previously mentioned film versions of 1984 and Brave New World, to such originals as Gattaca.  One would think that the individual fighting against the all-powerful State would be compelling cinema and gain some popularity as one can be looking at the future and yet still basing the premise of the individual's struggle to be superior to that of the State's need for control.  In cinema we do get films like the darkly conspiratorial Total Recall, in which who is trying to control the protagonist or if, indeed, there is even a 'reality' or a 'conspiracy' are all thrown up for grabs, to such light things as The Truman Show.  What we are served up, instead, are the 'resistance to the conspiracy du jour' like The Bourne Identity or The Manchurian Candidate, which both offer up villains that have become staples for films needing generic villains:  Corporations, Government Agencies, or the nefarious cross-mixture of Corporations and Government.  The flip side of these sorts of films are those where government by its size is benignly evil, so that 'doing good' means you end up getting targeted.  Here the list gets a bit more diverse with the very humorous Brazil being a top candidate to the more traditional Blue Thunder where the nefarious government/military/corporation conspiracy complex is trying to foist a super armed helicopter on the LAPD under the guise of 'protecting the Olympics', all the way back to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, where robotics meant to keep the workers under control ends up overthrowing the existing order of things with much chaos ensuing.

The very last category is the one where the pressure to conform from government and society is arrayed against the individual.  While 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are part of this genre, actually getting past the immediate films to find similar works gets difficult.  Here the tools of government to make individuals conform is paramount, as once control over society is established, nothing is off-limits to the State to 'do good'.  When the rest of humanity is controlled by the State either via drugs, 'discipline', 'training', or pure removal from the population (either via imprisonment or killing) the totalitarian State has no limits to disallow any form of coercion.  Only if an individual is of interest to the State for reasons of the State are there limits, and the rare individual that has such value points out to where it will go to excess for those with lesser or diminished value to the State as individuals become replaceable elements in the entire working setup. 

Because most stories would end up in the end of the individual involved, this genre remains the darkest as the final extinguishing of human identity into group identity is not a pretty sight to behold.  When governments are given such free reign, as they have been under many authoritarian and totalitarian states, the horrors of torture rooms, rape rooms, and feeding individuals into plastic shredders and taking that on video tape to distribute in his neighborhood as a warning, makes this a very, very grim view of the world. From the Cold War era comes most of these as allegorical tales about the subversion of individuals into communal thinking, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which has a true alien life replacing people we know with ones that only seem like humans.  The 1978 version was, perhaps, the most chilling as the psychologist, who is seen as the quintessential 'expert', played by Leonard Nimoy, underwent no real change in personality at all.  While there are many 'invasion' themed films, actually seeing humanity having given itself willingly into this condition is rare and the fight against conformity even rarer.

That is why Fascism is so very compelling: to get from your current state to the 'desired' end-state, it should really happen instantaneously.  No fuss, no muss, no bother.

Modern 'progressives' want to get to that State, but find the intermediate steps to be temporarily good, but counter-productive in the longer term.  Still the supposed 'good' of coming to depend on the State for everything is worth the 'ills' and 'problems' which can then be raised to heights and pontificated about to bring about more State controls that never, truly, address the ills and make the problems, themselves, more intractable and insoluble.  Giving racial 'preferences' instead of 'righting past wrongs' continues on a set of race-based agendas far past righting a wrong.  Encouraging welfare and then having children out of wedlock makes those women doing so perpetually dependent upon the State and destroys family life by not holding men accountable as fathers.  That ill brings up 'youth pregnancy' as culture collapses without stability of male and female views in a family, and in no time at all you get a child brought up believing they are entitled to having the basics of life provided for them ad infinitum.  Soon a once vibrant culture deteriorates into crime and disorder as the order provided by the family and teaching the necessity of law disappear.  Each 'crisis' to handle the problem with a State funded handout makes the entire cycle worse and destroys individuality in an attempt to create a true nameless, faceless class of identical individuals with identical beliefs.  Attempt to instill 'pride' fall flat as there is nothing to be prideful *of* if one does not have a basis for having a self-perception beyond race and class.  Soon race and class identity are pushed which makes the entire suite of problems 'intractable' and 'needing more money from government' for an ill that was best solved by the people involved getting a hand-up via self-responsibility and self-reliability.  Remove the latter and the ability of an individual to *be* individual falls.

Those that sign up to this are seeking a 'Third Way' that is not 'Right' or 'Left' but is wholly totalitarian in outlook and schema.  If these 'experts' are so smart, how come they cannot run a government agency efficiently?  And if so wise, why do they fail to give prudent advice when raised to positions of even trivial power and, in business, government and industry, become petty and controlling over such small amounts of responsibility handed to them?  To correct *that* comes 'oversight' which then requires more 'experts' and, incidentally, more cost and overhead that is non-productive.  But never fear, government will step in with *more money* to 'fix' the problem and put more people into that system... which we call 'health insurance' but is, in fact, a subsidy given to a paperwork management system that sometimes delivers 'health care'.  After inflation the cost difference between what your grandparents, who used 'health care' sparingly and took care of themselves, and your cost is that not of greed but of paperwork, overhead and 'management' between what goes on between you and a doctor.  Never fear, however, the State will 'help' by adding more 'oversight' and putting more people into the system.

Between point A and point B there is a treadmill running ever faster and elevating as you work harder to stay in place.  Point B looks so great to get to!  Until you realize that no matter how fast you run, how hard you try, you will soon be giving up everything to stay in place... until you are exhausted and give up to those who have been egging you on for the 'greater good' and 'benefits' to be provided at point B.  All those lovely things are, like in Stalin's USSR, only cardboard cutouts filled with nothing although they look like such pretty things on the outside.  And every time a goody is added, you are told to give more and more effort as it really is worth the cost... isn't it?  That is what we are told when government is supposed to do more and more and more, while being less and less and less capable and efficient of doing anything.  That may start off sounding like a lovely 'Wings Over The World' ideal, to push more to government until it is everything... but, if you are lucky, you end up with Brazil and NOT 1984.

What Things to Come left out between A and B was the unfortunate part of what happened to the diverse peoples of the world once the ever benevolent technocrats got to them.  If a society did not want or, by their own view, *need* rescue... that is too bad, they GOT IT ANYWAYS.  All to that 'greater good' of 'progress'.  What is forgotten is that 'change' is NOT progress.  I am sure that 'Wings Over The World' changed a *lot* of things... but I wouldn't call it progress by any extent of the imagination.

30 March 2008

Fitna - Clear and Simple

When we hear that we must understand that the 'moderate Muslim' is not for the radicalist ways of jihad, then we, as a society collected of individuals, come to the point where all the excuses given for wanton murder and Private War waged across the globe in the name of Islam and jihad must come down to one very clear and basic view.

Part of why that view is necessary is given a first and strongest view in Geert Wilders' short film Fitna. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for Fitna, we see the following:

Fitna is an Arabic word, generally regarded as very difficult to translate but at the same time is considered to be an all-encompassing word referring to schism, secession, upheaval and anarchy at once. It is often used to refer to civil war, disagreement and division within Islam and specifically alludes to a time involving trials of faith, similar to the Tribulation in Christian eschatology. The term originally referred to the refining of metal to remove dross [1], but became common in apocalyptic writings and is often used to refer to the First Islamic civil war, in 656–661 CE, a prolonged struggle for the caliphate after the 656 assassination of the caliph Uthman ibn Affan. The Second Fitna, or Second Islamic civil war, is usually identified as the 683–685 CE conflict among the Umayyads for control of the caliphate. The third one refers to the taifas in the end of the Caliph of C√≥rdoba's rule.
This is a meaning beyond simple trial or test, and hits straight to the heart of the problem in trying to apologize or veer off from confronting a religion that puts violent ideas and ideals into action. Within Islam, then, those that utilize violent ways and means are practicing something beyond jihad: they are practicing Fitna upon their fellow Muslims.

They do so by radicalizing their views and holding ahistoric views of their religious past in order to glorify it beyond all bounds of reason. When brought to an unreasoning and unreasonable height, one that cannot be touched by reason but only by passion, those seeking to cleans Islam of those who are considered 'moderates' is done by instilling fear and hatred of all of Islam. Their aim is global domination, but to get the foot soldiers to accomplish this they need to go beyond simple disdain or verbal neutrality of their fellow believers. To do that they attack those outside the religion and proclaim them all as the enemy of Islam if they will not come to it.

Every time we hear an excuse to act in a barbaric fashion and it is put into terms of someone else's fault, be it Israel, Arab Nations hosting Western groups, or even some ancient grievance against the Crusades we see Fitna at work. By not denouncing these things as unreasonable, by giving cover to acts of inhuman carnage Islam is not only speaking to those outside of it but is holding up a mirror to itself and letting those who do NOT actively support the violence and destruction: "This is your fate if you do not join us."

Those threats are made clear time and time again in a Nation called Iraq. Today, and for years, the radicals of Islam have not been solely targeting those from the west, from Nations with liberal and democratic views, from Nations that have thrown off the shackles of tyranny and point to a better and brighter future through peace and cooperation of Nation with Nation. No these seeking to help OTHERS rebuild their Nation and society from the outside are not the only target. Those radical elements now target the common man and woman and child in Iraq, be they Sunni or Shia, Arab or Kurd or Yezidi, they are all targets now and open to the vile hatred and disgust of those siding with radical and totalitarian views about Islam.

These radicals not only strike in New York City, Madrid, London, Israel, India, Australia and even into China. No, these radicals kill their own in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Somalia, Sudan, and Morocco. The gun they turn on others and the bombs they detonate, the havoc they cultivate is against all of those that will not see the world in their way and the goal of these bloody butchers is anyone who does not agree with them. Their hatred, their disgust and their cruelty knows no bounds of religion or culture or ethnicity: they have declared themselves the enemy of ANY who will not agree with them.

The short film of Fitna, while localized to the Netherlands, is global in its voice: those practicing these evil ways hold to a singular belief that is their OWN and they use Islam as the cover for it. Many sects of Islam have different views of those exact, same pages that are read, and have shifted from the external struggle to the internal and seeking to show that such struggles are universal. Those quiet voices are drowned out by the bomb blasts, the screams, the rain of blood from shockwaves visited upon everyday men and women of all beliefs, all classes and all ethnicities if they do not bow down to those seeking pure and absolute power over everyone.

Hearing of this film and its release on the 'net I utilized tools I had found for downloading such things as I knew it would not be up long and if others could not keep it and protect it, I would have my copy for the coming times of cowardice.

One tool is Orbit downloader, which has the ability via its Grab function to analyze a web page as it is loaded and identify the sources of rich media and allow you to download them for yourself straight from that source.

Another tool available for taking many different formats of video and audio and quickly compiling them to something that can be played on a stand-alone video player is DVD Flick. While it does not have the rich media editing capability of some other tools, it offers the 'quick down and dirty just get it to something easy to use' concept for those things you want to share with others via physical media.

A good alternative video/audio player for one's computer is VLC media player by the folks at Video LAN. It also has some functionality on sharing media across a network.

Another good tool for sharing rich media over a network is TVersity, which is relatively simple and straightforward.

These all have the benefit of being absolutely FREE for download.

To protect speech that others wish to stop, that those willing to use violence and destroy not only civility but civilization are willing to kill to end, to ensure the basic freedom to express yourself and have it heard and remembered these are simple and yet vital tools for capturing and distributing media that is in danger because it not about conspiracies... it is about truths others are willing to kill to suppress. Somehow the conspiracy theorists get plenty of airtime and very few assassinations visited upon them, while those wishing to say 'this is wrong and here is why' get targeted by those who can and will kill them if they do not recant the 'evil' of speaking their mind.

When corporations and cowards in the media will not even support their OWN, then you know that they are willing to submit to any power able to threaten them.

They are half-way to surrender already, and no longer having freedom.

For temporary security, like 'moderate Muslims', they live in silence.

And if they will not believe in what the radicals want, they, too, will end up like the common men, women and children around them who have been slaughtered.


29 March 2008

The quick analysis of the Iraqi attack on the militias

This will be based on the Iraqi Forces Order of Battle as seen at Long War Journal's posting of 25 FEB 2008 by DJ Elliot.  He has also posted material at the Wikipedia site, and some of that will come into play, too.  As one cannot analyze the situation without the background, I will take a look at the background and offer some free-form, back of the envelope ideas.  I am no expert, just an interested individual in affairs military.

Read at your own risk.

I will start with the immediate sector(s) involved and work outwards and upwards.

IGCF Basrah Sector.

As Basra is where things are starting off, that is where the analysis starts and here we find the 10th Infantry Division (IA 10ID) and the 14th (Mustafa) Motorized Division (IA 14ID) there.  Using the ID moniker for the 14th, even as it is motorized, it does not have the Mech designation for heavier combat transport, thus indicating a highly mobile Infantry Group, but more on the delivery to combat than within combat.

The obvious thing to look at is the actual disposition of the IA 10ID is stretched from the southern neighborhoods of Baghdad (Doura and Bayaa) all the way down to Nasiriyah.  A Division is typically made up of smaller functional units broken down first into Brigades (Bde) and then into Battalions (Btn) beneath the Brigade level.  Regiments are also included in Divisions as separate operational groups that often act at the Brigade level while being Battalion strength.  Typically these are 'special purpose' groups whose tasks are important enough to require the higher level designation for the lower strength level.  And yes that is an Army view, not a Marine Corps one.  Divisions, then, are in a state of flux due to sizing with variations on types of tasks to perform, logistics groups to support those tasks, and interior unit types and the need for personnel for things like manning vehicles separate from combat. 

Historically Divisions represent a total of 10,000 to 20,000 individuals, with a percentage of those being actual direct combatants.  Note that in organizations like the US Marine Corps the concept is 'every soldier is a Rifleman' means that there is an expectation that the support duties are secondary to combat, and as the USMC tends to go places where everything is in flux, everyone is expected to fight.  Similarly in the modern 'frontless war' the US Army has increased its combat training at all levels.  The Iraqi Army must do something similar as there is no 'front' to man and insurgent/terror attacks can happen to anyone at any time.

Thus the IA 10ID has two Special Troops and one Recon Battalion, plus the 3-10 Motorize Bde and two support Regiments at Nasariyah and is the DhiQar Operations Command.  This is for airbase defense of the upgraded airbase there (Tallil) and for the construction of the training/base Camp Mittica.  As Nasariyah is to be one of the major Iraqi bases and logistics points for their armed forces, getting that put in shape is a major task.

The 10ID 4-10 Motorized Bde has been placed near the Iraq/Iran border area in Al Amarah, not only to keep things quiet there, but to keep an eye on border activity and insurgent supply routes that may be heading through the area.

The 1-10 Motorized Bde has been split up from the southern Baghdad neighborhoods (2-1-10 Btn, 3-1-10 Btn) to Kut (1-1-10 Btn) with the 1-10 Special Troops Btn co-located with the 4-10 Bde at Al Amarah.

Augmenting the 1-10 in Baghdad is the 2-10 Infantry Bde 1-2-10 Btn.  The rest of the 2-10 Bde is in between Nasariyah and Baghdad at Samawah as reinforcement for the Provincial government there and to supply COIN capability between Nasariyah and Baghdad.

Missing from IA 10ID are 9 Btns which would represent artillery and Brigade level support units, which puts the entire Division at an 80% strength and requiring aerial support and other logistics support from other forces, presumably US and MNF.

The IA 14ID (Mustafa) is based in the Basrah area and is the Basrah Operations Command.  At Basrah, itself, are two Motorized Brigades (1-14, 2-14), one support Regiment, and the Division level command Battalion.  One Motorized Brigade (3-14) is cited in transition from Besmaya to Az Zubayr about 15 miles South of Basrah.  One Motorized Brigade remains 'unassigned' (4-14) presumably as a reserve or reaction force.

As with the 10ID, the 14ID is at 80% strength for the same reasons: units have not formed up or are in planning stages only.

For the immediate Basrah Sector, then, there are two IA Infantry Divisions that are Motorized, but understrength for logistics and artillery support which is spread across all the Brigades in each Division.  These are not, perhaps, optimal conditions to send Divisions into an offensive operation and there can be some questions about the wisdom of doing so.  But Basrah is not the entire operation and looking further north may reveal an operational concept to explain why starting off with two understrength Divisions in this way may be of benefit to the Iraqis.  Even if one pre-disposes a sectarian reason to go after the militias (which many do) the battle plan has been drafted by the Army which must represent all of Iraq and is an integrated system both ethnically, in sectarian views and culturally.

I will put off looking at the Police units in this force, for a bit, to look at the military capacity in and around Baghdad itself and then see what the more specialized forces for the Police add to the overall plan.  I will be leaving out analysis of Mosul and Baqubah as things there, while still 'hot' are in the expected category of COIN against al Qaeda groups.  Short of al Qaeda showing up with WMDs, there is not much strategic effectiveness left to it and even its tactical capabilities have been drained as witness al Qaeda leadership leaving Iraq.

Baghdad has three Division level elements present:  IA 6ID, 11ID and 9th Armored Division (AD).  Looking at the Divisions, as a whole, they are understrength, but much heavier units, particularly 9AD.  Thus while these units may have the same set of lacks in artillery and support Battalions, they do not suffer from lack of mobility nor firepower.

IA 6ID looks to be holding the western to southern portion of Baghdad, overlapping in Arab Jabour with the 10ID elements.  Similarly the 11ID holding the eastern to southern portion of Baghdad supports the 6ID in Bayaa and then has significant deployment in and around Sadr City.  The 9AD has been split up with 2-9 Armored Brigade and 4-9 Cavalry Brigade headed northwards to Mosul.  Out of the 9AD four Battalions from the 3-9Bde are in Basrah (3-9, 1-3-9, 3-3-9 and 4-3-9).  Additionally, outside of defense of Taji airbase, the 9AD has shifted the 1-9 Mech Bde around Baghdad, most likely as fire support for infantry groups.

At Division level there are mixed IA/NP/IP units integrated for COIN work.  Thus the better part of two Infantry Divisions with significant fire-support from the 1-9 Mech Bde are the regular IA support of this operation, with overlaps between other commands to allow for better comms and responses across commands.  The Mid-Euphrates 8ID operating out of Karbala ranges to the west of Baghdad and out as far as Kut to the east and Diwaniyah to the south, overlapping the Baghdad and Dhi Qar Commands.  This is relatively understrength as the 15ID is only in basic planning and implementation, which explains why the other Commands have lent units to overlap it.

That leaves the Iraqi National Command.  While its Counter-Terrorism Bureau (CTB) and Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF) are mainly in and around Baghdad, with the 2nd ISOF Brigade planned for a dispersal north to south from Mosul to Basrah, with the 1ISOF in Baghdad.  The ISOF are the equivalent of US Special Forces and have been working with them and other Special Ops groups for a couple of years and have gained great respect for their capability.  Their presence in Baghdad along with the Baghdad Command units seem to be a good initial set-up for a spectrum force to clear out Sadr City.

The Iraqi Air Force (IZAF) is still standing up, but its initial Recon Wings are properly situated in Kirkuk and Basrah with its Helicopter wing in Taji situated between Baghdad, Baqubah and Balad (about 30 miles equidistant).

The Iraqi Navy (IZN) is stationed at Umm Qasr and has a Tactical Operation Center on an oil platform.  The two squadrons assigned to them (1st Patrol Boat and 2nd Assault Boat) plus the Marine Commando Battalion are tied up in mostly local duties, although the possibility of a small riverine raid or interdiction is not beyond the realm of the possible.

The Iraqi National Police can be considered to be more SWAT style units than FBI sorts of units.  Running down the listing, the 1 INP Mech Brigade is stationed to the south west of Baghdad in Karbala, Al-Askarian INP Motorized Bde is in Samarra north of Baghdad and a bit far for immediate support and looking more to support COIN ops in north-central Iraq.  The 1st INP Division (Motorized) is situated in and around Iraq with its four full strength Brigades.  The 2INP Division (Motorized) generally covers the south of Baghdad and all the way up to Sadr City.

Then there is the Iraqi Border Police which one wouldn't expect to have a large role to play in direct combat, but more on surveillance and interdiction.  Trimming down the list those of interest are 2/III Wasit Bde and the 3/III Brigade out of Kut, and the IV Border Police region's 1/IV Maysan Bde and 2/IV Basrah Bde covering the tri-border area.  The V Border Police Region to the west and north operate from Samawah and Najaf, with a Brigade each.

And as DJ Elliot was so good as to map it all out, you can get to see how this looks when someone who knows what they are doing gets at this sort of info:

Courtesy DJ Elliot at Long War Journal

So time for the analysis, some of which I went through as I went along.

Staging into Basra is a difficult affair with only a single understrength but highly mobile infantry division to do the work along with an armored battalion.  As this was a pre-planned attack, it is unlikely that the planners would do this without very good rationale behind it.  As a battle plan, then, what are the comparative strengths of this arrangement and their weaknesses?

The major combat and COIN strength is in Baghdad, not only as a result of the forces needed there in late 2007 to start putting the insurgency to rest, but also to do sustainment operations.  From the Iraqi point of view, any expected move by militias and insurgents would be directed first at the point of assault and, second, at the government itself.  This has to be a major worry given how the forces are deployed, and the security of Baghdad is strongly reinforced.  For a relatively young force (by and large excluding the long serving divisions further north) this is a paramount need, especially after the hard won gains there.

Attacking first in Basra may seem foolhardy with understrength forces, but there is a UK Mechanized Brigade there and the more static IZN and Border Patrol units to the south.  If one considers that south to be secured (and not knowing the disposition of MNF forces in Kuwait), then attacking in Basra with the British unit there comes a bit clearer.  Although there is a relatively heavy motorized 14ID there and *if* it can get logistical support either via port or through secured transport, then the question must be asked: what is the size of the militias (total or in-detail) that they are facing?

That comes as the main question then, with an assortment of Sadrist JaM (both those he can control and those he can't) and what Iranian/Hezbollah Qods/IRGC forces have been infiltrated in.  Even more pertinent is the question of what will happen with the bridges and transport across the Shatt Al Arab waterway?  If it can be reliably sealed on either side, then the ability of insurgents to get resupply must come from the south and via the waterway (either in crossing to those in support of the insurgents or some direct crossing going upstream to Basra).  The IZN and IBP both play a role there if the Iraqi government is serious about cutting off the insurgency as only Iran has anything equivalent to counter such forces.

Most popular estimates of the Sadr Militia range as high as 60,000, but his support is not what it was in 2003-04 and has declined markedly since the poor turnout for a speech given in 2007.  His estimate for that rally was to be 300,000 and only about 100,000 showed up, showing that his high water mark in support had not only been reached but was now quite distant.  If that 60,000 represents a 1 out of 5 ratio for his support base, the expected remainder of JaM can be expected to be 20,000.  The others have either splintered off, quit the militia game or shifted to a new allegiance (most likely directly with Iran and the Qods forces).  Further, that support is divided between Sadr City and Basra, although not evenly but with a preponderance in Sadr City.  He has had time to move forces south over the last year or so, to stage an undermining of Basra and get his own militias put into power there.  So a rough estimate may be as low as 8,000 and as high as 15,000, if he has almost completely stripped out Sadr City of everything except thuggish enforcer types.

Those are not his only worries, however, as the dwindling in support also puts his ability to supply those insurgents into question.  The preliminary, pre-'surge' work to take out the criminal Kazali network and other related organized crime networks has put a serious crimp in the JaM resupply capability.  By being unable to protect the Kazali brothers and their followers, he has lost 'cred' in that community and may no longer have a ready supply system and depends on secondary sources for such things.  As Sadr has not operated JaM as a typical terrorist organization of the 'predator taking anything to kill' but more along the Hezbollah lines of 'prepare before you attack' he must then devote some portion of his armed followers to protecting supply lines.  Perhaps as high as 10%, which further erodes his easily available end-strength from 20,000 to 18,000, and the possible shifting from Sadr City to Basra in proportion (6,400 to 12,000).

So, counting the the IA 14ID and the full strength UK Bde one starts to see an equivalence in force sizes.

Insurgents always have the benefit of being on the defensive when attacked on their own territory.  The vicious mining of roads and complete houses by al Qaeda elsewhere has shown just how effective and difficult it can be to go after an entrenched enemy.  What the attackers have on their side, however, is speed and direct firepower, which had proven a trump card in Baqubah catching AQI that had thought they could escape as Baqubah fell.  Also there is air power in the form of the MNF and anything that happens to be off-shore or pre-positioned elsewhere.  This leads to the description of what is going on: house to house combat.

In history there has been no nastier type of combat, save for the sniper zones of Stalingrad, and fighting this way usually takes a high toll on the attacker.  The UK Bde should acquit itself well when it is needed for that, but the question is on the experience of the 14ID which is a huge unknown.  That being said, any organized combat training usually trumps *none* and those defending in house to house work have to have a good network of pre-dug tunnels, weapons and ammo caches, and sufficient booby-traps to stop up an enemy.  AQI did this very well, and still lost time and again to extremely experienced US and MNF troops, along with the IA units they were associated with.  It is possible that Basra has been made into something like Baqubah, but unlikely due to the working nature of the city and its necessary imperative on trade and transport.  Baqubah had been, basically, shut down with its flour mills and people tended not to hang around too long as things went downhill.  So a systemic mining of the city is extremely unlikely because folks normally don't like to live with pre-rigged high explosives in their homes.

To date this has been a 'feeling out' exercise to determine type, quantity and skill level of the insurgents.

That *is* the point of Basra: to get a final first-hand knowledge of the disposition of JaM and other Shia militias and Iranian Qods 'secret cells'.

After Baghdad comes Nasiriyah in force size, and while it is mostly base support and building units, there are a number of combat elements available there.  They are too far from Basra to offer readily available support, but a few hours would get them there.  Of course that same travel time gets them to the Iranian border throughout Maysan to the north and even up to Kut.  So while they are not primarily aimed at combat, the 10ID elements there are a form of 'ready reserve', although a slim one.  The forces at Samawah are likewise positioned for that and the entirety of 10ID is well positioned for any interdiction of supplies or fighters that appear in their area.  If things went horribly wrong in Basra, there would be support there and the Polish motorized infantry would then be suited to move into base protection/support.

Moving up we are back to the question of the preponderance of forces in Baghdad and what will happen to Sadr City?  JaM has slowly seen neighborhood after neighborhood around it shift from insurgency to government control, and with that goes easy resupply and followers.  If Sadr has left a thin force of JaM to screen Sadr City so he can try and keep Basra, then the fighting in Basra will show that with limited militia size.  If he has left a thin force in Basra, then the rest of it must be elsewhere and without an indication of even slow movement of JaM forces to Iran that places them as most likely in Sadr City.  There are lots of 'ifs' in the analysis, but this puts the equivalent force size as roughly the inverse of the overall remainder from Basra:  8,000 to 11,600.  Even taking out half the available Iraqi forces to hold the gains in Baghdad, that leaves those JaM forces outnumbered by 2:1 at best and almost 5:1 at worse.  As no visible mountains are seen in Sadr City and it is not a rubble pile like Stalingrad, this puts Sadr's JaM in a very poor place to stage any kind of fight.

Politically there is not much that Sadr can do- if he fights in Basra and even succeeds to a limited extent, then Sadr City may well disappear from his support column in short order. 

If he concentrated his most skilled forces in Basra and joined them with the Qods/Hezbollah organized forces, then that will show him in league with Iran directly and willing to give control over Iraqi territory to Iranians, which will make him very unpopular across Iraq, which will encourage the government to take out Sadr City. 

If it is light forces (but highly skilled) in Basra, the bulk of his forces are in Sadr City and on the wrong side of a 2:1 ratio, not counting MNF forces.

Shifting to the political sphere, Sadr's leaving Parliament and going to Iran has not helped his overall stature.  Even going on the 'fast track' to 'elder cleric' by taking the 'two year track' instead of the ten or so years usually necessary to get such status, puts the place he is getting it from into light: Iran.  For a 'nationalist' who has always portrayed himself as such, doing that is not only a snub at one's own country but to the native traditions in Iraq.  He went that route in a grab for legitimacy, but his absence with those who had supported him made his cause erode into disarray.  Having Qods/Hezbollah groups going after various parts of JaM didn't help things much, either, but that was probably out of his control... which wouldn't have been the case if he stayed in Iraq.

For those pointing to Maliki as seeking political gain: what of it?  If you see him as a 'puppet of Iran' then you also have to see the IA taking down large Iranian backed Qods 'secret cells' as not endearing him to his supposed paymasters.

If you see him aligned with the Badr Brigades, do realize that they were getting weeded out of the IA in 2005-06 by US COINTEL.  Their haven has been the INP and IP, but even there they have been facing problems continuing support and still getting their jobs done... and if they don't get their jobs done and actually cause problems they face the IA.  The Badrists may have danced with glee over the taking down of AQI, but the removal of the Qods 'secret cells', the criminal networks beyond the Kazali and the erosion of JaM is sobering as these are both Shia organizations.  And if you turn on the IA in combat you get known as a 'traitor' and can be taken down very quickly to anyone who wants to do so, such has been the problems of turncoats throughout history. Plus one of their 'own' is directing that, if you believe in this line of thought.  And most folks forget that the Badr Brigades were fully funded by Iran for years and all the way up to the invasion and for a bit afterwards, too.

Of course Maliki could just be doing the obvious: ridding his country of killers and getting the place stable.  I know, a dangerous thought that someone might actually do something for stated reasons.  I tend to shy away from conspiracies as they tend to be: too complex, too untrustworth, too leaky past two people, and liable have falling outs way before they achieve much of anything.  Consortiums and oligarchies are one thing, conspiracies quite another: if OPEC is a conspiracy it is poorly hidden, and the Red Mafia oligarchies were only able to survive by making their trails so complex that no one could piece them all together.  The former never tried to be a secret and the second one operated as a trust network that would fall apart gracefully, to allow sections of it to remain intact while the rest fell.  So for demonstrable proof of a conspiracy, one needs to demonstrate that the activities are going far and away beyond stated goals... which I haven't heard from anyone to-date.

Thus preferring simple complexity to complex simplicity, looking at the actions arrives one at a multi-week to 3-4 month operation to feel-out the militias, probe for responses, and then once those are seen and traced, to start pulling them out.  Sort of like the pre-prep to Baqubah, but done on a larger scale.  That would wind things up by mid-JUL 2008 at worse and by early MAY 2008 if everything goes as planned.  Wildcards remain Iranian responses, quality of personnel and logistics, not necessarily in that order.

Basra is the end of the beginning and not a deal-breaker for Maliki by any stretch of the imagination.

28 March 2008

Transparency and mirrors in terrorism causing moral blindness

Reading about some of the information released in the Canadian terror trial that recently started, I ran across the name of the informant in the case, Mr. Mubin Shaikh.  Born and raised in Canada, he has a cultural affinity for it even after spending a couple of years living in Syria.  After returning from that time in Syria during 2002-2004, one of his friends was picked up on terrorism charges and the CSIS folks wanted to talk with him.  Here is how he approached it as seen in a CBC Interview with him by Linden McIntyre, 15 JUL 2006:

Mubin Shaikh: So what happened was I go to Syria 2002 to 2004. I come back in March 2004, and I read in the paper Mohammad Momin Khawaja is arrested on terrorism charges. I know the family very well. We grew up together. His father taught us when we were younger. And so we have a good connection with the family.

So what happened was I contacted CSIS. I phoned them and I said, "Listen, I know the family, I know this guy, Momin, is there some way that I can help, you know, give some information in that, look, I've grown up with him, you know, I don't know him to be like this or his brother, definitely not his family, like his parents are not extremists."

So they're like, "Oh, Momin Khawaja, first terrorism case, sure, we'll talk to you." The guy comes down, he was head of the unit supposedly. We met at Timmy's, and, you know, I'm wearing my pin, the Canadian flag and the Metro police pin, because I was also doing I guess you can call it ethno-cultural religious awareness with the Toronto police, and just to let them know, you know, different things that could be of use to them, and so I met with the CSIS guys, and they were very interested in me now. So basically, you know, they put to me the prospect of working with them, giving information on people, certain groups, getting to leaders of certain groups, talking to them, seeing what kind of views they had and reporting on those views because I am convinced that I'm the best guy for them to have to comment on the different groups, because I have a solid foundation in Islam, you know, I'm born and raised here.

I mean, Toronto's home. So I understand what concerns they have, but at the same time as a Muslim, I understand what concerns Muslims have. So I felt that I could be a link between the two sides.

Beyond the understanding that he has and his ability to put the need to stop radicalism, he demonstrates one of the most extremely sophisticated views on how to put people at ease who might otherwise not be so.  First is his outreach to CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), which itself marks him as something a bit different than those muslim communities that harbor radicals and something much closer to the Anbari's in Iraq who have realized that the evil represented by violence soon comes home to roost in one's own house.  Next he gave the proper signals by wearing the flag/police pin and meeting with the CSIS in a haunt that many would know:  Tim Horton's donut shop.  That Canadian chain of donut shops, which had spread down to my native Western New York, is not a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts, though in the same ballpark as them.  Only in the well-worn donut shops from the area does one get a similar sense of familiarity that a brand-new Tim Horton's gives you.  Thus he had chosen not only neutral ground, but seemingly positive ground for the police.  He calls that 'ethno-cultural religious awareness' but to actively realize it and utilize it requires something a bit out of the ordinary.

That sort of outlook was similar to that used by al Qaeda in the 9/11 and other attacks:  blend into the culture, be non-threatening and be seemingly 'normal'.  Here it is clearly explained as something that can be known and utilized to set others at ease and quickly, although being Canadian born, Mr. Shaikh also has that affinity as part of his personal experience.  As he points out, however, there is also a personal part of this that is, at heart, untrainable: you either have the ability to say the right things at the right time or you do not.  That is how he went from being on the outside of the group planning a terrorist plot to being on the inside, as he relates further down:

Linden McIntyre: How do you do that without making yourself a little bit too conspicuous?

Mubin Shaikh: It's hard to say. There is a part of me that is like that. You know, right, like I have that in me so that they can see. It's very easy for me to do it. I don't really need to act. It's just the way that I am. You know, I like — I'm sociable, I like talking to people, I'm extroverted, you know, so with these guys, what happened was, I'm telling you, the divine hand is behind all of this. I go to this — there was a program that was going on, and I go to the banquet hall and I'm sitting at the table. There was nobody there, and a guy comes across, and of all the tables to sit next to, he sits next to me. So he asks me a question, is jihad... [speaking foreign language] What he's asking me is, is jihad a communal obligation or an individual obligation? If I say it's a communal obligation, I'm implicitly saying I don't need to be a jihadi. But if I say it's an individual obligation, then I'm saying I can be a jihadi.

Linden McIntyre: You should be a jihadi.

Mubin Shaikh: Yes, right, because otherwise you're not anything proper, really. So I told him exactly what he wanted to hear. I said, no, it's... [speaking foreign language] and that did it. I got pulled over to the side. They gave me the lines, what's happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, they're raping our women, killing our children, and that's the thing, the emotional thing they use. So you feel angry, you want to do something about it. Your mind is clouded. Now, you're young, physically, you're fit. You can physically do something. You need somebody to push you, to motivate you. You got that anger, the emotion, the desire to protect the honour of women, right. And the way this guy was talking, I had really my comment to my CSIS handler at that time afterwards was, "This guy is an effing time bomb waiting to go off."

Linden McIntyre: When did you know that this fertilizer or the ammonium nitrate was in the equation?

Mubin Shaikh: Just before it was made public.

That is, perhaps, one of the most amazing bits of insight into how the recruitment of individuals goes: it seeks those who have some affinity and then offers a line that pushes emotional buttons to make them receptive to recruitment.  That Mr. Shaikh could actually stand above that and distance himself from it, and then analyze it is amazing.  As he points out you cannot 'act' your way through that, but neither can you buy into the line being given.  The police were very lucky to have an individual so capable of that work come to them.  And yet the organization, itself, has built-in 'firewalls' as he was not trusted easily nor readily as that last bit shows.  He did not know of the plot or its moving into an active phase as he had not demonstrated himself as reliable.  Perhaps as an unwitting bomber, yes, but not as someone trusted with actual plans and logistics.

While he was, and possibly *is*, still supporting radical groups, at least vocally, Mr. Shaikh has also come to some realization that what the end result of that radicalism gets is not very good at all.  Basically it is a man with a conflicted spirit and view of the world, plus having a past drug habit that has included LSD and cocaine (Source: Macleans 10 SEP 2007), but who can see his way, at minim, to self-preservation and love of country to do the right thing.  One can only act like a jihadi in such a convincing way if the leanings are there, but kept under some restraint, which is how those who seek to do terror acts must lead to in the opposite direction so as to mask their inner feelings and keep actions at bay until the appointed time for them.  For Mr. Shaikh the idea of supporting Sharia in Canada and yet supporting the current system of law and order are not in conflict, no matter how much those around him may see them as being so.

His friend, Mohammad Khawaja was picked up due to leads in the UK that led to the discovery of a bomb plot there which had progressed to the point of having a half-ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer intended for bomb making (Source: CBC 08 APR 2004).  That plot was linked to men having Pakistani background and Mr. Khawaja had just arrived back from London after visiting those picked up in the plot there.  Prior to that Mr. Khawaja had met up with Mohammed Junaid Babar in Pakistan, who would later be picked up in the bomb plot and would admit to having been part of plots to assassinate Pakistani President Musharraf and having ties to Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Mohammed.

Omar Bakri Mohammed had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood by attending schools run by them from age 5 and cementing his ties with them at age 15 (Source: Jamestown Foundation interview 23 MAR 2004).  Omar Bakri Mohammed has been involved in more than one uprising, not only wanted by Syria for his participation in the Hama revolt, but also found guilty in Saudi Arabia of arranging similar there.  Also he was part of Hizb ut-Tahrir when it sent a proposal to Ayatollah Khomeini that they would recognize him as head of the Caliphate, which Khomeini turned down having different theological views from HT.  His support for HAMAS and Hezbollah in the areas of funding and activism continue, and his son was caught trying to smuggle cash out of the UK to him in Lebanon for that purpose in 2006. 

Abu Hamza, on the other hand, was the #3 man in al Qaeda when he was killed on 30 NOV 2005 by an explosion in North Waziristan due to a US missile strike (Source: South Asia Intelligence Review, Weekly Assessments & Briefings, 12 DEC 2005).

Thus the idea of Mohammad Khawaja helping from Canada has support both from the infrastructure and logistics end (Omar Bakri Mohammed) and from the operational end with Abu Hamza (from al Qaeda).  As Bakri himself would point out in the Jamestown Foundation article:

Q: How come we have not seen a dramatic attack in the West since 9/11?[5]

A: Al-Qaeda is not interested in small attacks. Of course al-Qaeda freelance supporters carry out such attacks in places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, but the real al-Qaeda is not interested in these minor attacks, they go for massive operations. When they want to strike they will strike. Also bear in mind that the Americans are not holding any al-Qaeda people in Guantanamo Bay.

Of course he then discounts KSM, Abu Zubaida and Ramzi bin al-Shibi as either not part of al Qaeda, actually killed in Pakistan or that an imposter is the one taken in by the Pakistani ISI.  Still, the basic concept of al Qaeda being centered on the sophisticated and larger attacks was essentially correct for the pre-Iraqi version of al Qaeda.  Since then al Qaeda has had to change direction and severely, to counter its losses in the 'little attacks' arena in Iraq and Pakistan.  It is not that they don't carry them out, which they do, but that they are getting an unexpected backlash from them. 

That pre-9/11 al Qaeda would, indeed, spend months or years establishing camps, agents, casing targets, and slowly using a multi-cell operation with mutual deniability between cells to attempt very sophisticated attacks.  Mohammad Khawaja's work, then, meets up with that older system of work even as al Qaeda was coming to realize that all of the skills and tactics it had to deploy against the USSR were not only not serving it well against the US, but is counter-productive when deployed with savagery.  That he was approached is indicated by the first meeting with Bakri and Hamza, and then his meeting up with the London group thereafter.  His role may not have been determined at that point, but that he was part of the group is without question.  While Mr. Shaikh's connection to him is incidental, it is enough to put him in the spot of 'someone who knew someone' and worth being approached thereafter.

One of the individuals who best put this into context is Mark Steyn with a quick posting at The Corner on NRO, on 27 MAR 2008,(h/t: Instapundit) in which he looks at his previous article of 26 JAN 2008 on the group rounded up in Toronto due to Mr. Shaikh's work and the revelations given out by the court in Canada where their trial is taking place.  In that he points to an article in The Star (Toronto) of 26 MAR 2008 and what this group was doing in Canada:

According to the allegations, the so-called Toronto 18 were attempting to secure a safe house to store weapons and practise military drills, and embarking on a mission to destroy the West – one they should be willing to die for.

Details of the alleged plot, which also included storming Parliament Hill and beheading politicians, emerged in a factum filed by the Crown that described the case against the accused as "shocking and sensational."

The document contains transcripts of wiretaps and videotapes that include one conversation in which one of the accused speaks of the group's ambitions.

This is not your normal, run-of-the-mill terrorist wannabe that so many complain about as 'not being real terrorists'.  I have looked at that in the past in connection with a group in Florida, and looked at the sorts of things going on with terrorism in general and Florida in particular.  With just a bit of digging connections to the late Zarqawi's european terror group could be found in London, which the plotters in Florida were in contact with.  Further a more localized organization in Trinidad, Jamaat al-Muslimeen, had ties to Florida to stage its 1990 Islamic coup with guns purchased and shipped via Florida.  Additionally ties to Pakistan showed up in the trial of Shueub Mossa Jokhan and Imran Mandhai, who were plotting to attack power infrastructure in the US along with Jewish businesses.  Beyond that, the basing of a black market arms dealer in the area by the name of Jean-Bernard Lasnaud (Source: NISAT transcript of a Frontline documentary) gives a ready resource to any who could were in contact with him.

Thus the problem with trying to discount individuals as 'not being professional terrorists' points to the problem that it is very, very easy to get in contact with professional terrorists and start doing their work.  The connections Canada has with transnational terrorist groups is clearly seen in testimony given to Congress on 13 DEC 2000.  The first of these is by Frank J. Cilluffo, Deputy Director, Global Organized Crime Program, Director, Counterterrorism Task Force, Center for Strategic & International Studies (Source: Globalsecurity document cache) looking at the problem of organized crime and terrorism:

The overlapping of terrorism and the narcotics trade is not new either. Many groups have always been involved in the drug industry. But many ideologically bankrupt terrorist groups shed their moral righteousness and turned towards the drug trade to further their tainted causes. Whether the terrorists actively cultivated and trafficked the drugs or "taxed" those who did, the financial windfall that the narcotics industry guarantees has filled the void left by state sponsors.

Organized crime and terrorism have two differing goals. Organized crime’s business is business. The less attention brought to their organization, the easier their job is. The goal of terrorism is quite the opposite. A wide-ranging public profile is the desired effect. Despite this, the links between organized crime and terrorism are becoming stronger in regards to the drug trade. Organized crime groups often run the trafficking organizations while the terrorists and insurgent groups often control the territory where the drugs are cultivated and transported. The relationship is mutually beneficial. Both groups use funds garnered from the drug trade to finance their organizations.

Funds from states that support terrorism are dwindling, but by no means depleted entirely. The fall of the Soviet Union ended the stream of money that funded terrorists. As a result, terrorist organizations had to search for new sources of funding for their wars. Some organizations such as the Shining Path have always look towards indigenous forms of funding. Others like FARC cooperate with overseas criminal enterprises. Nevertheless, it is evident that the distinction between terrorist groups fighting an ideological enemy and criminal organizations’ pragmatic pursuit of profit is quickly becoming blurred.

Involvement in the drug business is almost a guarantee of financial independence from a state sponsor. Groups are no longer beholden to outsiders. That brings the realization that whatever restraint those state sponsors could impose, has now vanished. Likewise, traditional diplomatic or military measures that the United States could subject state sponsors to curb terrorist actions is diminished.

The blurring of these lines pose new challenges to the United States. The traditional organization of the US national security apparatus used to combat the troika of the terrorist, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking threat is no longer applicable. In order to work towards a solution to the problem of narco-terrorism, it is important to identify its implications to US policymaking and its implementation.

On many levels this is what we have seen in Pakistan, Iran, and the extension of terror groups throughout South and South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Americas.  It is quite telling that the one set of contacts not mentioned about Mr. Shaikh are *not* the terror ones but the drug ones.  While his addiction is brought up as a 'social ill' and he goes into rehab, he only does so AFTER the group he has infiltrated has been brought down.  That leaves a high and distinct possibility that not only was he recruited by terrorists but that he helped make vital connections between them and the trafficking side of the equation, too.

The second man to address the House Congressional Judiciary sub-committee on 13 DEC 2000 (Source: Globalsecurity document cache)was Ralf Mutschke, Interpol's Assistant Director, Criminal Intelligence Directorate, and it is that testimony that is the most chilling to anyone trying to discount a difference between 'professional terrorists' and mere drug traffickers.  Soon after introducing himself he presents this as an example of transnational terrorism melding with organized crime:

I would like to draw the particular attention of the Committee to the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), considering the events of December last year. On 14 December 1999, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested near Port Angeles, Washington State, while trying to enter the United States from Canada. He was in possession of a timing device, explosive materials and false identification documents. Ahmed Ressam is known to have shared a Montreal (Canada) apartment with Said Atmani, a known document forger for the GIA. It has been established that before Ressam attempted to enter the US, he was in the company of Abdelmajid Dahoumane in Vancouver (Canada) for a 3 to 4 week period. An Interpol Red Notice was issued regarding the latter. The investigation has revealed links between terrorists of Algerian origin and a criminal network established in Montreal and specializing in the theft of portable computers and mobile telephones. The group in Montreal was in contact with individuals involved in terrorist support activity in France, and with several Moudjahidin groups who are active in Bosnia.

Subsequent to the arrest of Ressam, the Montreal police arrested twelve persons who were committing theft of valuable goods in cars in the Montreal downtown area. The proceeds of these criminal activities were sent to an international network with links to France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Bosnia.

The events in Canada and the United States should be seen in a wider perspective. Indeed, intelligence shows that several Algerian terrorist leaders were present at a meeting in Albania, which could also have been attended by Usama bin Laden, who was believed to be in Albania at that time. It was during this meeting that many structures and networks were established for propaganda and fund raising activities, and for providing Algerian armed groups with logistical support. The arrest at the Canada-US border in December 1999 may indicate that the Algerian terrorists are prepared to take their terrorism campaign to North America.

The GIA is a very active and deadly terrorist organization operating mainly in Algeria but which has also mounted several terrorist attacks in France, including the hijacking of an Air France jetliner in 1994 and a bombing campaign in 1995. Their aim is the overthrow of the Algerian Secular Government and its replacement with an Islamic state. They have developed large scale support and financing activities in Europe and other parts of the world. An analysis recently conducted at the Interpol General Secretariat has revealed GIA involvement in a number of criminal activities in several European countries. Although the information received is fragmented, it has been established that GIA support networks are involved in extortion, currency counterfeiting, fraud, and money laundering.

This is not what one expects of the GIA: to operate a highly sophisticated criminal organization in support of terrorism.  The interconnects of the GIA via Albania take root in the concerns of the region, especially Kosovo.  In listing the problems engendered in Albania that permit groups like the GIA to join up with organized crime, he looks at the following:

1. Concerning Albanian organized crime in the United States, the 1986 break-up of the "Pizza connection" made it possible for other ethnic crime groups to "occupy" the terrain which had until then been dominated by the Italians. For Albanians this was especially easy since they had already been working with, or mainly for, Italian organized crime.

2. Due to a highly developed ethnic conscience - fortified by a Serb anti- Albanian politics in the 80’s and 90’s, Albanians, particularly Kosovars, have developed a sense of collective identity necessary to engage in organized crime. It is this element, based on the affiliation to a certain group, which links organized Albanian crime to Panalbanian ideals, politics, military activities and terrorism. Albanian drug lords established elsewhere in Europe began contributing funds to the "national cause" in the 80’s. From 1993 on, these funds were to a large extent invested in arms and military equipment for the KLA (UÇK) which made its first appearance in 1993.

3. From 1990 on, the process of democratization in Albania has resulted in a loss of state control in a country that had been totally dominated by the communist party and a system of repression. Many Albanians lacked respect for the law since, to them, they represented the tools of repression during the old regime. Loss of state structures resulted in the birth of criminal activities, which further contributed to the loss of state structures and control.

4. Alternative routing for about 60% of European heroin became necessary in 1991 with the outbreak of the war in Yugoslavia and the blocking of the traditional Balkan route. Heroin was thus to a large extent smuggled through Albania, over the Adriatic into Italy and from there on to Northern and Western Europe. The war also enabled organized criminal elements to start dealing arms on a large scale.

5. Another factor which contributed to the development of criminal activities, is the embargos imposed on Yugoslavia by the international community and on the F.Y.RO.M. by Greece (1993-1994) in the early 90’s. Very quickly, an illegal triangular trade in oil, arms and narcotics developed in the region with Albania being the only state not hit by international sanctions.

6. In 1997, the so-called pyramid savings schemes in the Albanian republic collapsed. This caused nation-wide unrest between January and March 1997, during which incredible amounts of military equipment disappeared (and partly reappeared during the Kosovo conflict): 38,000 hand-guns, 226,000 Kalashnikovs, 25,000 machine-guns, 2,400 anti-tank rocket launchers, 3,500,000 hand grenades, 3,600 tons of explosives. Even though organized crime groups were probably unable to "control" the situation, it seems clear that they did profit from the chaos by acquiring a great number of weapons. Albanian organized crime also profited from the financial pyramids which they seem to have used to launder money on a large scale. Before the crash, an estimated 500 to 800 million USD seem to have been transferred to accounts of Italian criminal organizations and Albanian partners. This money was then reinvested in Western countries.

7. The Kosovo conflict and the refugee problem in Albania resulted in a remarkable influx of financial aid. Albanian organized crime with links to Albanian state authorities seems to have highly profited from these funds. The financial volume of this aid was an estimated $163 million. The financial assets of Albanian organized crime were definitely augmented due to this situation.

I have looked at this previously in special regards to Kosovo and its environs, and the amount being made in the drug trade is astronomical due to the percentage of Europe that is supplied via the Albanian Mafia Families.  Even with things simmering down in the Balkans, Albanian organized crime and its affiliates were the ones who were armed and connected enough to profit by any relaxation of border security.  Looking later on, Mr. Mutschke points to links with cocaine, heroin, forced prostitution and human trafficking, beyond arms trafficking and money laundering.  Further on he looks at the transnational alliances between various narcotics cartels and syndicates spanning the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia, which, when combined with terrorist support, gives terror organizations a distributed web for logistical supply and support.

These gangs do not just stay in those venues, however, and branch off into the lucrative field of tax dodging of import duties and sales taxes.  One of these areas is cigarette smuggling, that not only seeks to avoid international controls, but controls within Nations.  On 19 JUL 2006 Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog looks at some of the cases then in the works relating to terrorism:

Racketeering, Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing:

* U.S.A. v. Mohamad Youssef Hammoud et al., Charlotte, North Carolina: 25 individuals charged in connection with cigarette smuggling, money laundering, credit card fraud, marriage fraud and immigration violations. Four individuals were charged with providing “material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization,” Hizballah, specifically providing “currency, financial services, training, false documentation and identification, communications equipment, explosives, and other physical assets to Hizballah, in order to facilitate its violent attacks.” In 2003, Mohamad Hammoud was sentenced to 155 years in prison, while his brother, Chawki, was sentenced to 51 months.

* U.S.A. v. Elias Mohamad Akhdar et al. (pdf), Dearborn, Michigan: 11 co-defendants charged with racketeering related to the Charlotte, North Carolina scheme. In January, 2004, Akhdar was sentenced to 70 months in prison and was fined over $2,000,000 after having pled guilty in July, 2003.

* U.S.A. v. Imam Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, et al., Michigan, Canada (Ontario, Quebec), Lebanon: In March, 2006, 19 co-defendants charged with a racketeering scheme involving contraband cigarettes, counterfeit Zig Zag rolling papers and counterfeit Viagra, counterfeit cigarette tax stamps, transporting stolen property, and money laundering. A percentage of the profits derived from the illegal enterprise were given to Hizballah. On July 7, two of the defendants, Imad Majed Hamadeh and Theodore Schenk, 73 pled guilty (pdf). Hamadeh and Schenk face a maximum possible penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

This is *not* your father's Hezbollah, that's for damned sure.  This set of rings were set up by the Exterior Security Organization of Hezbollah run by the late Imad Mugniyah, and yet it follows the classical lines of organized crime groups.  As another case points out, this goes far beyond cocaine, heroin, cigarettes and such:

Drug Running:

* U.S.A. v. Mohammad Shabib, Cleveland, Ohio: Federal prosecutors charged Mohammad Shabib with hiding his role in a drug ring which profits were funneled to Hizballah. Shabib, a gas station owner, had $8,000,000 in a Chicago bank account, which authorities say Shabib amassed by shipping roughly 3 tons of pseudoephedrine from Canada to California, which he would sell to Mexican gangs who would use the drugs to produce methamphetamine. (See: Amanda Garrett, “Terrorists’ Money Takes Convoluted Path in U.S.,” The Cleveland Dealer, January 18, 2004).

Yes, purchase the sudafed from Canada, ship it to California with its lax controls over just about everything save taxes, sell it to Mexican drug gangs a mark-up and pocket the profits.  When you are caught with having shipped 3 tons of sudafed illegally and netting $8 million in profit, you are no longer talking about minor crime or support of it.  Even the 'supporters' of Hezbollah are getting into the act:

* Hizballah-linked Counterfeit Goods Ring in Los Angeles (pdf), Los Angeles, CA: Testimony of Lieutenant John C. Stedman, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, May 25, 2005: “There are also indicators that some associates of terrorist groups may be involved in (Intellectual Property Right/)IPR crime. During the course of our investigations, we have encountered suspects who have shown great affinity for Hezbollah and its leadership. The following are just two examples: during the search of a residence pursuant to an IPR related search warrant, I saw small Hezbollah flags displayed in the suspect’s bedroom. Next to the flags was a photograph of Hassan Nasrallah whom I recognized as the leader of Hezbollah. The suspect’s wife asked me if I knew the subject of the photograph. I identified Nasrallah and the wife said, ‘We love him because he protects us from the Jews’. Also in the home were dozens of audio tapes of Nasrallah’s speeches. During the search, one of my detectives also found a locket which contained a picture of the male suspect on one side and Sheik Nasrallah on the other. In 2004, detectives served an IPR search warrant at a clothing store in Los Angeles County. During the course of the search, thousands of dollars in counterfeit clothing was recovered as were two unregistered firearms. During the booking process, the suspect was found to have a tattoo of the Hezbollah flag on his arm.”

So, how can a terrorist organization that wants to spin up a camp quickly do so?  Contact your local pushers until you find someone associated with one of the gangs related to Hezbollah or GIA and, soon enough, you can get a nice pipeline of work going and with a bit of extra work via GIA, you will be in contact with al Qaeda agents or they with you.  Getting money and support to individuals is not much of a problem, as the multiple penetrations of the 'secure' banking networks has demonstrated, and have indicated a secondary set of networks of funds transfers between financial institutions that aren't banks being near autonomous in their ability to do similar.  What is worse is the inherently person-to-person fund transfer networks that I looked at concerning the Middle Eastern hawala system and the Black Market Peso Exchange Systems.  These networks are more difficult to stop as they are ethnic based and trust networks: based on p2p trust.  Worse is that funds, themselves, do not actually exchange hands across the networks, but white market goods can and do.  In one of the most ingenious and nearly impossible to detect and stop ways of doing business, by separating out cash and goods and only transferring goods, cash is exchanged across the network.  Throw in a bit of smuggling to move white market goods to restricted markets and you get an added profit from the transaction.

Back to Mr. Shaikh and what was going on in Canada, then, with the group that was forming up a conspiracy to commit terror attacks:

While some of the allegations have already surfaced in public reports, a great deal in the factum had never been published. Some of that expected evidence includes:

  • Videos of terrorist indoctrination, in which the accused are exhorted to wage battle in the new empire of "Rome" in North America, "whether we get arrested, whether we get killed."

  • Wiretap surveillance in which they discuss their desire to "establish the religion of Allah and to get rid of the oppressors" and the need for funds to finance their goals of building a "team" to "go make an attack."

  • The construction of a "radio frequency remote-control detonator" that needed to be improved because its range was nine metres.

  • Allegations the accused attended two training camps. One was a 12-day camp near the town of Washago, Ont., where they practised military-style exercises in camouflage gear and undertook firearms training with a 9-mm firearm. The second was a two-day camp at the Rockwood Conservation Area, where they donned camouflage clothing and made a propaganda-style video of their military drills.

According to the Crown's factum, the alleged terrorists first popped onto the radar of police in August 2005, when two of the adults were stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in a rented vehicle while attempting to smuggle firearms and ammunition into the country.

Based on the rental agreement, weapons history and intercepted telephone conversations the duo had while in jail, police expanded their investigation. They homed in on a few individuals and contacted Mubin Shaikh to act as a police agent.

This group would then case various areas to see if it was feasible to set up a 'safe house' for storage of arms and explosives in a planned called 'Operation Badr':

On the way back to Toronto they discussed Operation Badr, a plot to storm Parliament Hill, take politicians hostage and demand the removal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan and the release of Muslim prisoners in federal institutions, police allege. If their demands weren't met, they'd "kill everybody," said an adult, who also reminded the others that the prime minister wasn't "Paul Loser" or "Paul Martin" – as they suggested – but was in fact "the other guy, Harper."

After their return, an adult reported he had built the "first radio frequency remote-control detonator," but pointed out it only had a range of 30 feet (nine metres), "which is not good." In response, another man pointed out "30 feet away? So you have to get blown up? Might as well sit in the car." He explained that if they could get the detonator to work from 300 metres, "then we'll do it." He then said that when the bomb went off on Front St., innocent people would be killed, which would be "too bad for them," according to the Crown's factum.

To those who miss the point: they don't care about politics and being nice to anyone based on political alignment.  The nature of terrorism is to exploit weaknesses and demonstrate strength, not to take a political 'side' as their side is 'above politics'.  To these individuals the actual 'victory' is the action itself, even if they get killed:


In a video, Person 1, shown sitting in the dark under what appears to be a tent, speaks to the group:

"We're here to kick it off man. We're here to get the rewards of everybody that's gonna come after us, God willing, if we don't (get) a victory, God willing, our kids will get it. If not them, their kids will get it, if not them, the(n) five generations down somebody will get it, God willing. This is the promise of Allah. . . .

These are not 'militants', they are cold blooded killers looking to kill their way to power for their cause even if it consumes them in that doing.  This is 'killing your way to promised rewards' which, in case anyone has missed it, is the exact reason Aum Shinrikyo decided on methodical mass killing: to bring about the promised end by just helping it along.  The causes and verbalizations are starkly different, but the end result is unrepentant slaughter of innocents.

Beyond the obvious with individuals educated beyond the basics, these people have knowledge of technology, a rudimentary concept of terrorist combat and were getting up to speed on logistics and funding.  They were not 'poor and uneducated' and are, very likely, middle class and possibly even college students or graduates.  Terrorism is only for the 'poor and uneducated' as 'muscle', which is why al Qaeda recruits amongst slums and such: they need individuals to actually protect their operations while the operations, themselves, are carried out by skilled individuals. 
Which makes yet another small piece by Mark Steyn, just prior to the others (Corner NRO) , even more troubling, as the western idea behind the causes of terrorism, not just the Islamic Fascistic sort but all terrorism, is severely myopic:

Yesterday, round about the time Andy and Derb raised this, I was giving a talk to the Hudson Institute gang and Monica Crowley asked me a question about the presidential candidates and radical Islam. I replied that I had no doubt that John McCain was fully committed to the military campaign - if only for personal reasons and tribal loyalty, he's not going to let this generation of American warriors get stuck with a losing hand from Washington. But I added I was unsure the Senator grasped the scale of the broader ideological struggle. His words yesterday confirmed as much:

McCain said the United States' goal in fighting Islamic extremists should be "to win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists.

"In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs."

Really? Even as a theoretical proposition, trusting the average American college education (even if one does not draw Sami el-Arian or Ward Churchill as one's mentor) to woo young Muslims to the virtues of the Great Satan would be something of a long shot. But it isn't even theoretical anymore.

There's plenty of evidence out there that the most extreme "extremists" are those who've been most exposed to the west - and western education: from Osama bin Laden (summer school at Oxford, punting on the Thames) and Mohammed Atta (Hamburg University urban planning student) to the London School of Economics graduate responsible for the beheading of Daniel Pearl. The idea that handing out college scholarships to young Saudi males and getting them hooked on Starbucks and car-chase movies will make this stuff go away is ridiculous - and unworthy of a serious presidential candidate.

Indeed, nearly every leader of terror groups has been educated in western universities, be they Ivy League or purely technical academies, the 'muscle' of a couple of men per plane on 9/11 points out the other 'technical' individuals that actually carried out the hijackings and flew the aircraft.  Some of them had come with visas in their pockets to study at US flight schools in the 1990's, at the invitation of the US government.  When radicals come to speak in the US, they do not go down to poor neighborhoods or run down storefront mosques, then go upscale and talk to the middle class muslims.  As seen in testimony given to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims on 25 JUN 2000 (Source: Globalsecurity document cache), are some descriptions of the individuals actually let in or invited to the US and what they did when they got here [all spelling errors in the original]:

Islamic militants on the lecture circuit in the United States:

"The Jews distort words from their meanings…they killed the prophets and worshipped idols…Allah says he who equips a warrior of Jihad is like the one who makes Jihad himself." In Arabic, Wagdi Ghuniem, a militant Islamic cleric from Egypt, mesmerized his audience, with his relentless tirade against the Jews, reminding them of the Jews' "infidelity," "stealth" and "deceit." Known for his folksy deliveries and exhortations to commit violence against the Jews, Ghuniem did not disappoint his crowd, several of whom had come just to hear him. The conflict with the Jews, he said, was not over land but one of religion. "The problem of Palestine is not a problem of belief… suppose the Jews said 'Palestine--you [Muslims] can take it.' Would it then be ok? What would we tell them? No! The problem is belief, it is not a problem of land."

Ghuniem then led his rapt audience, which numbered as many as 500, in a special song, the audience responsively repeating each refrain:

No to the Jews
Descendants of the Apes
We Vow to Return
Despite the Obstacles

The administrators of Brooklyn College would probably have been surprised to learn thattheir campus was the site of an incendiary rally more similar to those held in Gaza than those held in the United States. On May 24, 1998, a special all-day program was held in the Walt Whitman Auditorium of Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. Organized by the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an American-headquartered front group for Hamas, the program was entitled "Palestine: 50 Years of Occupation." Eleven Islamic organizations co-sponsored the event, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Islamic Circle of North America. To the outside world, this conference probably seemed like one of the many seminars held on campus. Conducted almost entirely in Arabic, the conference featured Islamic speakers from the United States and abroad.

Ghuniem has traveled to the US on a regular basis, giving lectures in large and small venues. In 1997 and 1998, Ghuniem appeared at the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) (an Islamic group that supports the positions of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the United States) and IAP conferences, as well as at smaller events in local mosques and Islamic centers across the United States and Canada. Part of his popularity may stem from the fact that he speaks in a local rural Egyptian dialect and peppers his talks with humorous anecdotes. His rhetoric espouses a deep hatred for Jews. He often praises terrorists and terrorist attacks.

Interestingly, Sheik Ghuniem was denied entry to Canada in early January 1998 and detained as he tried to enter Windsor from Detroit. Ghuniem was on a whirlwind US-Canada lecture circuit, with scheduled stops in Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Detroit, San Diego, D.C., Toronto and Montreal. But the trip was rudely interrupted, if only temporarily, at the Canadian border. The reason he was barred? "Our (computerized information) system indicated he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas," said Gerald Belanger, a Canadian immigration official as he was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen. Leaders of the Muslim communities in Detroit, Toronto and Windsor bitterly protested Ghuniem's detention, as evidence of an anti-Muslim bias, claiming that Ghuniem was a "man of peace." "He's a very reasonable man" declared Hussein El-Hennawy, a MAYA official quoted in the Ottawa Citizen, "He teaches people to be peaceful." MAYA has established the "Scholars Defense Fund," to pursue legal action against the Canadian Government for its perceived "humiliation" of Ghuniem.

Canadian authorities released Ghuniem back to the United States and he returned to his lecture tour on behalf of militant Islamic groups in helping them recruit new members, raise funds and coordinate strategies with other militant Islamic leaders crisscrossing the United States. US officials say they are virtually powerless to stop the influx of known militants into the United States for reasons ranging from lack of adequate intelligence to easy circumvention of the watch list to legal restrictions in stopping self-described religious clerics from entering the United States.
Still, the question raised by Ghuniem's numerous appearances in the United States is how do terrorists manage to enter the country?

One method has been those who deliberately overstay their student visas, some op who are dispatched from terrorist-supporting regimes. Some of these "students" have acquired visas for the purpose of attaining cover for their illicit activities as activists for terrorist organizations. Others receive advanced degrees in the US and return to their countries where some might work in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs. Although there is no official compilation of the number of student visas granted to would-be terrorists and agents of terrorist supporting regimes, one study currently in preparation shows that there are at least 200 terrorists or agents of terrorist regimes and organizations who have received student visas in the past decade to pursue undergraduate or graduate training.


Beyond the issue of how terrorists have been able to exploit student visas to stay in the United States for long periods of time, another major, even more frustrating, counter-terrorist problem is the ease in which terrorists and militants freely enter the US for shorter periods of time. The official purpose of such short visits is generally linked to invitations to appear at religious-based conferences and meetings at Islamic organizations in the United States attended primarily by American Muslims. The real purposes of these visits are to recruit new members of militant organizations; facilitate fundraising for militant activities, both in the U.S. and abroad; coordinate political and even military strategies with other militants leaders; indoctrinate new "foot soldiers;" and even participate in terrorist training sessions.

Every year, according to law enforcement officials and information obtained at Islamic conferences, dozens of militant Islamic clerics, officials, representatives and leaders of various terrorist organizations and movements come to the United States. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Gamat Al Islamiya, Sudanese National Islamic Front, Jordan's Islamic Action Front, and Hezbollah. Visits by Islamic militants to the US are not a new phenomenon.

Some get into the United States using false identification, while others simply get in because they are not on any watch list. During these conferences, it is not uncommon to hear Islamic militants praise terrorists and terrorist attacks, attack the United States and the West, or call for the death of Jews and the destruction of the United States. For the most part, these incendiary lectures, almost invariably in Arabic, are not illegal insofar as the content, unless a specific act of violence is advocated, and fall under protected speech. Federal law enforcement is largely prohibited from attending the conferences at which these militants appear, because of the restrictions imposed by the Attorney General Guidelines against any surveillance of religious groups, unless there is ironclad evidence ahead of time that a crime or a conspiracy to commit a crime will take place. Of course, absent direct surveillance, it is almost impossible to obtain such evidence--which creates a Catch-22 conundrum. On the other hand, it must be remembered that the Attorney General Guidelines were issued in response to abuses by intelligence and law enforcement officials.

Even if the FBI were involved in greater surveillance, chances are that it would not witness the events going on behind the scenes--the most likely venue of any illegal activities--even though witnessing center stage activities would be considered shocking in and of itself. For example, the Islamic Association for Palestine held annual meetings in 1989 and 1990 in Kansas City where off stage, secret meetings were held with a pre-selected "class" of future Hamas terrorists who were taught car-bombings and other terrorist warfare. Meanwhile, at IAP's "plenary" sessions--held in the Kansas City Convention center-- several notorious militants and leaders of Hamas gave fiery speeches praising attacks by Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups in language and rhetoric more familiar to Hamas rallies in the Middle East than to Kansas City.One of the most electrifying moments came when a keffiyeh-draped leader of the Izzadin Al-Qassem death squads--the military arm of Hamas--delivered a rousing account of the specific violent terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas.

The conferences mentioned above are but a few of the literally dozens of radical Islamic events held prior to the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993. Following the bombing and the subsequent investigations into the militant Islamic networks in the US and their ties to terrorist organizations abroad, it seemed likely that the US would seek to curtail the entrance of Islamic militants into the US.Yet conferences featuring prominent terrorist sympathizers and spokesmen for Islamic militancy have continued unabated.

Believe it or not that is a very *short* portion of the testimony given.

Yes, declare yourself to be a 'cleric' and you can preach all the hatred you want and couple it directly with appeals for military funding and action... illegally.  The reason they could, as mentioned, was that 'wall' set up by the Clinton administration between INTEL and just about everyone else, including the State Dept.  Somehow the Leftist claim that 'overstaying your visa is no big deal' suddenly doesn't look like such a good deal due to those that abuse this concept with intent to kill and undermine the US and its allies.  Even after the 1993 WTC bombing, the Clinton administration did nothing to stop this and, indeed, allowed such practices to get worse.

In case Sen. McCain has missed this: allowing terrorists in to train in western schools just makes them skilled terrorists, not western sympathizers.

This is not a visa problem, at heart, but one of actually making sure that the people applying for them are screened and vetted, and that they are held to their visa stays.  It is not that all of those coming on visas are bad, it is the few bad ones that can create disaster that need to be screened out.  Judicial Watch asked ICE to outline how many people are here on student visas and published their results on 16 FEB 2007:

Judicial Watch began investigating the student visa program following a Bush administration joint statement with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in April 2005 increasing the number of Saudi students permitted to travel to and study in the United States. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 24, 2006. According to records recently obtained by Judicial Watch, 9,952 “active Saudi Arabian students” were in the United States, on three different types of visas as of January 25, 2007.

The ICE documents obtained by Judicial Watch contain the following breakdown of the student visa program: 9,787 students possess “F-1” visas, which are designated for foreign students pursuing a full course of academic study. Nine students possess visa type “M-1”, which are designated for foreign students pursuing a full course of vocational or recognized non-academic program.  The remaining 156 possess visa type “J-1,” intended for foreign nationals who are selected by a sponsor to participate in an exchange visitor program.

According to other ICE official records dated September 6, 2005, at the time, there were a total of 611,581 active foreign students in the United States eligible for “F-1” and “M-1” student and vocational visas.  The same records indicated that there are 154,471 exchange visitors eligible for “J-1” exchange visas.

On September 11, 2001, 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers carrying out the attacks were Saudi nationals. According to a CNN News Report, six months after the attacks, Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) issued visa approval/verification letters for two of the hijackers to the flight schools at which they were registered. Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi were approved for “M-1” vocational/non-academic visas by INS in 2000.

Yes, Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi had not only visas, but ones that indicated they were here for a vocation or trade, and by the numbers it is one of the hardest set of visas to *get* from KSA.  I doubt that they listed al Qaeda as their sponsor and 'flying aircraft into buildings' as their trade, although it was so good of ICE to issue them visas posthumously.  That's 'Compassionate Conservatism' for you!

What this points to is that the problem with terrorists in Canada is that they are a local manifestation of a much larger, global phenomena.  Transnational terrorism and organized crime are not things that make themselves suddenly apparent as an immediate problem.  Due to the nature of these organizations and how they work, their very intent is to remain in the interstices of international law and convince the law abiding peoples *not* to hunt them down as Nations should do.  When captured by civil means then, of course, demonstrate the inability of individuals to distinguish between what is and is not lawful and put them away for a good long time, perhaps a lifetime.  But do not blind yourself to the encouragement that can be given to it by just saying 'well they aren't *professional* terrorists/gangsters, so no harm done':  the dividing line between the 'professional' and 'amateur' has become damned thin and the intent and lawlessness are the SAME no matter the level of 'professionalism' involved.

The wheels of justice will grind slow, but fine, in the case of those in Canada and their associates in Georgia in the US.  Stopping them is all to the well and good, but that is not even the beginning of trying to tame this mess left to us by generations of self-deceit that these are organizations that we 'just can't deal with'.

We haven't even *tried* to properly formulate a response to them.

And inviting them to do worse by training them, is not only not helping, it is getting people killed.

It is a very Christian and highly moral thing to 'turn the other cheek' and seek that your attacker learn the error of his ways.... when he hits that one, what will you do?  Bend over to give him two more to beat?